According to reports, between 12 and 30 million Americans suffer from a sex addiction. Many different people feel the adverse effects of this addiction as it can be devastating for both the one suffering and for loved ones.
The causes behind sex addiction are varied and dependent on many factors. Sex addiction can lead to emotional and physical distress.
There are specific signs and symptoms to look for when trying to evaluate if you have a sex addiction. Some of them appear quite similar to other addictions, like drugs or alcohol. There are also serious risk factors for those who are addicted to sex.
The good news is that there is hope for recovery. Healing from sex addiction is possible, and you can start fresh and live a life full of love, joy and success.
What is Sex Addiction?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines sex addiction as a disease of the brain. It gives the brain feelings of reward and motivation. These feelings make you want to repeat the behaviors that feel good, even if they are negative behaviors.
Those with a sex addiction report having excessive thoughts and a preoccupation with certain acts of a sexual nature. This preoccupation can lead to acting on sexual desires that eventually lead to negative consequences. The addiction can interfere with the addict’s personal and professional life.
There are several types of sex addiction and a person can find themselves in a cycle of negative behavior patterns.
Different Types of Sex Addiction
Each sex addict can have preferences of how they satisfy their addiction. Some may choose to use pornography. Statistics show every second, 28,000 or more people are watching porn on the internet. In addition, well over $3,000 is being spent each second on pornography.
Other types of addiction include prostitution, masturbation, masochistic behavior, voyeurism, and exhibition.
No matter which avenue a person chooses to satisfy their craving, there are specific signs and symptoms to look out for that can help determine if a person may need help.
Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction
The signs and symptoms of sex addiction may be different for everyone. However, there are some general effects that may be consistently seen among addicts.
For instance, feeling a lack of control over your obsessive thoughts about sex is one common symptom. Another is if you feel powerless against your compulsions to act on your sexual desires. You may even feel like your life is becoming hard to manage due to your preoccupation with sex.
Often, people feel a sense of shame or guilt after performing a sex act. Symptoms can also include visiting strip clubs or sex related events. An addict may even choose to have affairs outside of their relationship, engage in risky sexual encounters or illegal sexual encounters.
Causes of Sex Addiction
Dr. Patrick Carnes, notable leader and founder in the field, states people become addicted due to belief systems and thought patterns that are incorrect. They feel they are not valuable or that others will not see them as worthy.
Dr. Carnes explains that sex, just like other substances, fills a void inside a person that makes these feelings of worthlessness bearable.
Sex addiction is not caused by just one thing. It is caused by a mixture of sociological, biological and even psychological factors.
Sex can trigger the feel-good chemicals in the brain. A neurochemical reaction that boosts levels of dopamine and other chemicals produce pleasure throughout the body. This leads to a person continuing the act of sex to achieve that same feel good feeling.
The brain can be re-trained due to neuroplasticity, however, which means having an addiction healed.
Many causes of sex addiction have nothing to do with sex. It can be a way for some addicts to self-medicate when they are feeling pain. While others may use drugs, cut themselves, or binge eat, sex addicts turn to behaviors that may offer them the same relief from internal pain.
Risk factors can include having too many sex hormones, childhood abuse, or a link to another mental disorder.
If risk factors are not dealt with properly, there is a high chance for negative consequences.
How Sex Addiction Can Affect You and Others Around You
Sex addiction can affect the lives of those who love and care for the addict. Spouses, friends, and family members can experience negative consequences associated with their loved one’s sex addiction.
Negative life consequences can include relationship issues, declining health, financial problems, and legal problems. An addict may also begin to isolate themselves and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.
Fortunately, there are positive methods of treating any type of addiction. Sexual addiction can be conquered so that you can enjoy a healthy and happy lifestyle once again.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
Many treatments have proven to be successful when treating someone with a sex addiction. Anyone with this type of disorder can receive help. One of the most common ways to start treatment is with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you how to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are associated with our sexual addiction. You can learn about triggers and methods to avoid relapse.
A person with a sex addiction could also benefit from attending group therapy, as well as family therapy. In group therapy, you can get feedback from others who are suffering with similar symptoms. In family therapy, you can work with loved ones to help prevent relapse and set appropriate boundaries.
You may find that inpatient treatment can benefit you. There are rehabilitation centers around the world who specialize in recognizing the causes of your addiction and can help you establish a plan for preventing relapse.
It is sometimes necessary to attend an in-patient facility for treatment. You are away from your everyday triggers and can solely focus on your specific needs. You can focus on discovering the most suitable recovery plan.
When choosing a counselor or treatment center, it is important you can participate in techniques that focus on connecting the mind, body and spirit. True healing incorporates all parts of the body. Working on the physical as well as the mental and spiritual can provide you with more strength throughout your recovery.
Recovering From Sex Addiction
Recovery does not happen overnight. It’s a process of healing the mind, body, and spirit. Recovery includes behaviors you should avoid, as well as behaviors you should do daily. For instance, you want to avoid visiting pornography websites, but engage in therapy with a counselor to understand the root cause of the addiction.
Recovery is learning and implementing relapse prevention techniques, which includes continuing your care for as long as you need.
In recovery it is important to avoid old friends who will want you to relapse but attend a support group with people who want you to succeed.